Is it a good idea to have vulnerable opensource components in my application?

This may seem to be a trivial question or something more like a joke. Why would one keep a vulnerable component in his tech stack? That said, from time to time, we meet people who simply answer “well, this is not an issue”.

Surprisingly, some are part of the technology leadership, or even the security chapter. Often their answer is usually along the lines of: “Well, you should know there’s a difference between vulnerable and exploitable: the fact that a component is vulnerable does not automatically mean that it’s possible to exploit it”.

There’s a difference between vulnerable and exploitable…”

Yes, that is perfectly correct. We know it, as we do our own analysis as part of our routine.

Do you know what the problem is? You are probably not involved in the project and you are not a developer. I can bet that you are not continuously monitoring and assessing the code that your developers are daily pushing. Are you? Because at the speed innovation is going these days, there’s no guarantee that even tomorrow one of your developers will push a line of code that will enable the exploit. Yes, these exploits may be quite complex but also may be very easy to enable. It’s possible that an application including a vulnerable component is not exploitable today, but what about tomorrow? Your software is changing continuously.

“…but developers push new code daily, software is changing continuously.”

Do you know why Struts in Equifax was hacked? Because of a log message. A simple log message that echoes the content of a header, only that such content contained OGNL code, crafted by an attacker.

Do you know how jackson-databind remote code execution can be exploited? It’s just one configuration property away: enable polymorphic JSON deserialization and you are on.An apparently innocuous JSON message can feed now code to your server to be remotely executed.

So, in your position, I would not sit too complacent on the fact that you have vulnerable components that today cannot be exploited because of the current application code. That code changes continuously, daily, and unless you have in place an incredibly strict validation process, you are at risk, and you are putting your customers at risk. I do not believe such risk is acceptable.

“Most of the times the fix is just one patch away.”

Furthermore, most of the time fixes are just a patch away. We are not talking about a four-week refactoring session, but probably more like a one minute change and a run of the normal test regression suites, And if you had a system in place to continuously check your components against known vulnerabilities, you would have caught such an issue and patched it a while ago.

This is not a commercial plug for Meterian. Yes. this is our bread and butter, and we think we provide tons of value for the money. But some of our competitors do that as well. Maybe you are already using one of them in your company, and that’s great. Plug that in and set your customers free from this risk.

Nobody likes to be hacked.

Is it a good idea to have vulnerable opensource components in my application?